An important step inexpanding voluntary benefits is to talk to clients to find out whattheir employees are asking for, and figure out what will fit withtheir current plans. (Image: Shutterstock)

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Although the growth of voluntary benefits has resulted inthe vast majority of brokers offering some kind of voluntarybenefit product, there are still agencies out there that arelooking to expand in this area.

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As we saw in the first installment of this series, the reasonsfor doing this are many. In addition to improving revenues, brokersare finding strong demand for these products, and can workwith their clients to present a comprehensive set of benefits bycarrying a full array of voluntary benefit offerings. For many,this approach is simply a necessary part of stayingcompetitive.

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Related: 5 way brokers can maximize voluntary benefitsportfolios

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“If you're not doing this, somebody else is going to be,” notesMike Estep, vice president of group products and worksite leader ofGuardianLife Insurance Company of America. “A good defense is the bestoffense.”

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The list of voluntary benefits is long; in additionto traditional offerings such as disability coverage, as well asdental and optometry insurance, carriers now have hospitalinsurance, accident insurance, and critical care insurance. Theseproducts are often popular with employees who have high deductiblehealth plans such as HSAs, to fill possible coverage gaps. Othervoluntary benefits can include long-term care, legal services,student loan reimbursement, protection against identify theft, and more.

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Talk to your clients

Experts say an important step in expanding voluntary benefits isto talk to clients to find out what their employees are asking for, and figure out whatwill fit with their current plans. “I would say, sit down withclients and ask them what they'd like to see that isn't beingoffered today,” says Marty Traynor, senior vice president ofvoluntary benefits and workplace solutions at Mutual ofOmaha. “I always start with customer feedback.”

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There are also a number of companies and consultants thatspecialize in voluntary benefits. “When a brokerage is starting,they really should engage a voluntary benefits subject matterexpert, someone who is experienced in not just insurance products,but a range of products,” says Robert Shestack, CEO of the Voluntary BenefitsAssociation and chief strategy officer of Paylogix.

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Estep points out that insurance companies have many resourcesfor brokers. “Carriers help out with this quite a bit,” he says.“Our account management team can really look at who you're workingwith, what's being offered, and what is being used by employerswith similar employees. Working with a carrier with a deepunderstanding of the market is a good place to start.”

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Pay attention to communication, administration

As noted in the first article, a crucial part of having asuccessful voluntary benefits menu is making sure theadministration of those benefits runs smoothly. And that meanshaving good education tools, strong enrollment platforms andexcellent customer service. These are all things brokersshould look for as they talk to carriers.

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According to Traynor, voluntary benefits providers have donesome groundbreaking work in developing platforms to administer theirservices in convenient ways. “I see where a lot of the individualmedical insurance carriers are trying to figure out how to do moreautomated processing of underwriting, and in the voluntary worldwe've had that for years. In terms of employee communications,we're getting better and better at communicating through multiplemedia; the ways we communicate with employees have just gottenricher and richer.

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“Voluntary benefits gives employers a lot of flexibility, andfor middle Americans, it's an important part of financial securityfor themselves and their families,” Traynor says.

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